Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You Say You Want a Revolution? I Prefer a Line.

The idea of the gap, as discussed in yesterday's post, has many applications. For example, our essential political differences have to do with the gap between the individual and the collective, and how it ought to be filled: by the state or by the free and spontaneous activities of civil society.

Tocqueville famously observed that one of America's unique characteristics was the presence of so many voluntary organizations that mediate between man and state. The more the state appropriates these vital functions, the less the individual can do so; or, as Dennis Prager says, the larger the government, the smaller the citizen.

A corollary of this is that we need large and ontologically hefty souls in order to preserve limited constitutional government -- which is why the magnificent universality of a George Washington towers over the small-minded pettiness of an Obama.

It has been said that the American revolution was the only successful one in history. Why is this? In large part because our founders made the correct choice at the outset between liberty and egalitarianism, and between a liberal republic vs. an illiberal democracy. That is, they knew that a pure democracy would eventually consume itself, as citizens vote themselves more goodies from an ever-expanding state; no one can honestly say they didn't warn us about Obama.

Conversely, the French, for example, "tried to create the impossible: a regime of both liberty and of 'patriotic' state power. The history of the revolution is proof that these goals are incompatible" (Krauthammer). And yet, virtually every revolution since then follows the French and not American model.

Which makes one suspect that we are giving the same name to two very different phenomena. For example, even Jefferson or Paine in their most intemperate flights of intemperateness wouldn't agree with Saint-Just that "The Republic consists in the extermination of everything that opposes it."

In point of fact -- and we have discussed this in the past -- our war of independence was the opposite of a revolution. For what is a revolution? Well, for starters, it is a circle, as in how our earth revolves around the sun. You might say that political revolutions pretend to take place at 180˚ but necessarily come 360˚ and thus back to 0˚.

Speaking of whom -- and by now it is a cliche to say so -- Obama's countless broken promises (actually, some folks have attempted to count them) demonstrates how revolutionaries, once in power, become the new conservatives, since they want to conserve and increase their power. Thus, all of Obama's broken promises cohere around the same theme: the power of the state over the citizen.

If America wasn't founded in revolution, then what do we call it? Well, what is the "opposite" of a circle? For our purposes it is a line. As we know, not just liberalism but all primitive mentalities are circular. It was the Jews who discovered linear time, and therefore the very possibility of evolution and progress. For clearly, evolution is an irreversible line, not an absurcular nul de slack.

With a circle, no matter how far one "progresses," one eventually regresses; and in the absence of downsight into the circularity of this phase space, one will march straight ahead into the past, as we see in the case of Obama's retrograde policies. Every single one of his primary constituencies is doing worse today than five years ago, but I suppose that, from the perspective of the circle, it looks as if they are barreling ahead.

Krauthammer quips that the "brutal circularity" of the radical revolutionary should be "properly called not revolution but nihilism." Again, it is nihilistic because it necessarily returns to 0˚. But why?

I would say because of the absence of Truth and Freedom. The child of Truth and Freedom is Creativity, and the latter is the advance of novelty. The advance of novelty -- which is quintessentially linear -- is the opposite of the circularity of the eternal return. The very historical appearance of the United States was a radical departure, so perhaps this newness became conflated with "revolution."

The founders were quite aware of this novelty, i.e., that they were creating a government rooted not just in ideas, but in permanent truths. Obama couldn't possibly be more wrong than to foolishly suggest that the Framers somehow rejected absolute truth. I mean, our founding document couldn't be more clear, with its reference to the self-evident truths from which government derives its purpose and its legitimacy. To deviate from these truths can never result in progress, for the same reason that rejecting any truth is going to impede progress.

Bob, this post is starting to get pretty obvious, isn't it? Could we please have a new rant, or at least a novel way of expressing it?

Okay, back to the Gap, which we will pretentiously capitalize. By its very nature, the Human Situation takes place in the Gap.

Now, this Gap is either nothing or it is everything, and I mean that quite literally. In other words, if the existentialists, materialists, and other flatlanders are correct, then this Gap is a kind of absurd irruption in the middle of nowhere, in which we are condemned to a meaningless freedom with no possible telos, no goal beyond itself. This is what Sartre means when he equates being and nothingness.

But the existentialist -- as do all bad philosophies -- errs in starting at first base without explaining how he got there. This is in violation of the old baseball adage that one cannot steal first base; rather, one must earn one's way there by getting a base hit, or walking, or getting plunked by the pitcher.

In the realm of philosophy, what is Home Plate, i.e., one's first principle? For if one starts with the wrong principle, it is not possible to get to first base. To cite one obvious example, if one is a materialist, one can never leave the batter's box. Rather, one will always be zero-for-zero, which works out to a perfect batting average of .000. However, since it is "perfect," it seems that the materialist imagines he is batting 1.000.

Example. Okay, look at Sartre: he claims with one hundred percent certainty that everything is meaningless, so one hundred x zero (i.e. zero meaning) works out to a philosophical batting average of .000.

Now, no one could possibly bat a thousand or always bowl a perfect game except maybe Jesus.

Prior to God's creative activity, the world is said to be "without form and void." In other words, it is a big Nothing. Which it must be in the absence of God. Man himself has no form -- i.e., no nature -- if he is not created. Is it any wonder that civilization deteriorates and descends back into primordial chaos and barbarism when we disregard these God-given forms? When we do that we are back in the revolutionary circle, where it is impossible to evolve.

And come to think of it, isn't the Serpent the first revolutionary, and his circular doctrine a declaration of independence from God? And for that matter, didn't Obama's mentor, Saul Alinsky, dedicate Rules for Radicals to "the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom -- Lucifer”? If Alinsky was trying to be ironic, then he was too ironic by half.

... [O]nly if it is true that the universe comes from freedom, love, and reason, and that these are the real underlying powers, can we trust one another, go forward into the future, and live as human beings.... For this means that freedom and love are not ineffectual ideas but rather that they are sustaining forces of reality. --Josef Ratzinger


mushroom said...

Progressivism -- going no where really, really fast.

Speaking of the power of Jewish revelation reminds me of the cycle that is depicted in Judges. They keep going from deliverance back to bondage. Somewhere in a book I have a better graphic than this, but it's the same idea.

I'm also reminded of the scene in True Grit where Mattie tells Ned Pepper she knows a good lawyer. He replies, "I need a good judge."

julie said...

And yet, virtually every revolution since then follows the French and not American model.

That reminds me, has anyone else noticed that in a pack of "Forever" stamps, at least in the past couple of years, each stamp comes with one of four proclamations: "Freedom," "Liberty," "Justice," "Equality."

One of these is not like the others. When I noticed, I did a double-take to make sure someone hadn't thrown "Fraternity" in there with the assumption that nobody would notice.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In point of fact -- and we have discussed this in the past -- our war of independence was the opposite of a revolution. For what is a revolution? Well, for starters, it is a circle, as in how our earth revolves around the sun. You might say that political revolutions pretend to take place at 180˚ but necessarily come 360˚ and thus back to 0˚."

The American Resolution would make more sense. Plus it's not so revolting and unoriginal like revolutions are.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

For Obama it's a MEvolution. Cuz it's all about him donchaknow.
"Constitutional scholar" my ass. More like Constitutional Pallor.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I reckon you could say our Founding Fathers hit a line drive to center field of dreams.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of revolution Dan Greenfield wrote this yesterday:
"The left cannot escape its own materialism. Its attempts at adding an ethical dimension to materialism fail because its ethical dimension is still materialistic. Its pathetic efforts at injecting pastiches of Third World and minority spirituality into its politics to provide the illusion of a spiritual dimension are hollow and racist. The left cannot fill its own hole, because it is the hole.

Like Islam, it provides something for people to believe in, but the thing it provides is the compulsion to find meaning by forcibly remaking other people's lives in a perpetual revolution which becomes its own purpose."

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Dan is right, lefties are hoes.